Late Summer Afternoon – Lukas Hoffman, Sophie-Scholl-Schule

Berlin, 20 September 2014

Berlin, 20 September 2014

LATE SUMMER AFTERNOON

I look up.
The ocean that we call sky is clear.
The burning light of the sun hurts my eyes.
Instinctively I turn my head in another direction.
What I see is the reflecting after-glow on the other side of the big mirror.
My brain tells me it’s a good day,
but it’s been a cold day.
The sun wants to tell me something,
now that I have been thinking about her.
But she doesn’t like what I have been thinking,
so she goes and her place takes a red and orange cloud.
This beautiful blue ocean turned into a dark unclear cover.
All that happened within a few minutes.

Lukas Hoffman, Sophie-Scholl-Schule, Berlin

Nature in the sky: a sixpenny song for Billy Bragg

[map 42 - Singapore]

[map 42 – Singapore]

NATURE IN THE SKY

 

When the rich get richer

and pretty as a Monet picture

when the common touch

don’t mean that much

we’ll build nature in the sky

 

with palm trees and grass

and a deck-chair for the arse

we’ll enjoy the show

dying down there below

from our nature eyrie  in the sky

 

When you don’t count

and cannot amount

to a lump of coal

in a mining hole

or my ode to nature in the sky

 

we’ll kiss the world goodbye

 

Tony Birch

 

From Ego-story to Eco-story

lone stone in ocean

Regarding the relationship between Homo sapiens and Nature: Nature itself never needs its own autobiography, even though its history is written in rocks under the earth. Nature has no self-obsession. It is the human who is in love with its own history and measures the value of the world in terms of its own sense of importance. The self -‘I’ – cannot help placing itself at the centre of creation, just as each person seems to want to place themselves at the centre of life.

 

I should pay royalties to Julian Barnes, and I would happily do so since he is really the finest English writer still alive in Britain. In his Flaubert’s Parrot, he wrote: ‘I was reading Mauriac the other day: the Memoires Interieurs, written at the very end of his life. It’s the time when the final pellets of vanity accumulate into a cyst, when the self starts up its last pathetic murmur of ‘Remember me, remember me… ’; it’s the time when the autobiographies get written, the last boasts are made, and the memories which no one else’s brain still holds are written down with a false idea of value.’

 

Whenever I am asked this question by a journalist: ‘how would you like to be remembered?’

I would look at the journalist’s face, I am at loss, and totally wordless.

It’s not that I am dying or being toothlessly old, it is that I have never believed in this after-life in which we supposedly gain some immortality, where we live posthumously as the reward of this life and its struggles, and the great works we labored on. Only Jesus and Sartre believe in this sort of vanity. Even de Beauvoir didn’t believe in the posthumous reward, or the idea of the literary immortals. Well, if I have no answer to such a question, I would say I wish to be remembered as a nameless tree, a stone, a palm of sand, a drop of water. We never need or want to remember such things from the point of view of the human value system.

 

It’s our utter self-absorption and strange habit of belief, that reality revolves around us which makes us unable to see the longer term view.

We are unable to look reality in the face as it is, and see what we are doing. Inside, we already believe in our own story, in which human life is a meaningful, indispensable corner of the cosmos. This is our vanity: The very reason for creation at all is us: we are God’s companions. In that story,

Our real place is beyond this world. Isn’t heaven beyond the sky, and God is waiting up there for us? How strange that we still think like this! Science tells us this is false. But it seems that the essence of our mind has programmed us not to believe it. The self-aggrandizing autobiographical impulse tells us it is false. How strange that a creature born from nature should come to think it is so disconnected from nature.

 

From where does this alienation come? Maybe it is just a trick of evolution. If creatures have a self-deluding program in their minds about what they are, they are more likely to successfully reproduce and look after their young. But this success comes at a price: ecological destruction.

 

So, here is my poem, summing up:

 

The ego is the reason for ecocide.

Ego-death may give us eco-life.

Seeing ourselves as nature means

no longer clinging to the auto-biographical

and its implicit idea that we are immortal.

We are just nature.

Nature is built without purpose or meaning.

When your hand can feel the drops of water,

And see the drops as beautifully meaningless.

Then we shall see things as they are,

rock as rock, tree as tree, water as water.

 

Australia – 4. Literature as an early warning system

DSC01724aIf anyone has any doubts weather literature can rescue us from the apocalypse, I’m not surprised. It doesn’t sound convincing to me either, but I do have some evidence confirming that it actually can. The widespread traditional stories or legends passed on from one generation to another which rescued the inhabitants of an Indonesian island Simeylule, located close to the epicenter of a tsunami that killed about 229 thousand people in 12 countries in 2004.

The legends appeared after 1904 when another tsunami took place. According to the tradition they passed on, the inhabitants should run away to the hills when they should see the ocean withdrawing. On December 26th the oceans withdrew. The same tsunami killed about 90 percent of the population in the nearby Indonesian region Aceh. They had no early warning system. They didn’t tell the right stories. As we can see literature (in this case oraly passed on legends), can work as an early warning system. I’m just afraid that first there has to be a catastrophe. But catastrophes happen all the time. The worlds history has seen a few civilizations fall. There a few books written about this. There are also warning signs that the same may happen to our civilization. The difference is that in the history of humanity there has never before been such a global civilization as ours. So if it collapses, it will be a spectacular collapse. And a fascinating history. If anyone will be left to tell it.

A Limerick About My Australian Socks

I recently bought a pack of socks while I was in Melbourne and was intrigued to find that they came with each sock labelled left or right. Given that these were an adult size and that the people of Melbourne strike me as the types who most likely know their left from their right, Australian SocksI came to the conclusion that this labelling was intended to be symbolic, an attempt to raise awareness of, and perhaps even overcome, the deep divide that exists between the political right and left in Australia.

Like trying to walk with your feet spread wide apart (or indeed, heading off in different directions), this divide presents a huge impediment to Australia’s struggle to adapt to the challenges of climate change.

Gazing at the symbol-laden socks, and profoundly moved by this noble act of weaving performed by the garment industry, I was compelled to write the following poem. I hope it succeeds in conveying the pathos, and enlightenment, I experienced on opening the packet:

In Oz they put words on each sock,
To urge politicians to talk,
Though they may just be feet,
The analogy’s neat,
‘Cos each needs the other to walk.